Haikyu!!

"Everybody on this side of the net is your ally no matter what! Yes, you suck! Who cares?! Bring it on! Mess up! Get in the way! We'll cover for ya! We'll back you up! Cuz we're your teammates!" - Tanaka

Haikyu!! is a manga and anime series about the Karasuno high school volleyball team, the rivalry turned friendship between first years Hinata and Kageyama, and the team's shared dream of reaching nationals. Ever since seeing Karasuno and his idol 'The Little Giant' in a game on tv, Hinata dreamed of following in his footsteps. Despite his short stature, Hinata had an intense love for the game and a natural athleticism, although his makeshift volleyball team suffered a crushing defeat against Kageyama during his first and only game in middle school. After the loss, Hinata worked to improve his skills so he could eventually have a rematch against the arrogant 'king of the court' he lost against. However, he was shocked and dismayed when finally got to high school to find that Kageyama was attending the same school and they were going to be teammates! Through a reluctant mutual respect for one another's skills and having a shared passion for giving their absolute all to the game, they were able to help the former powerhouse team once again soar so that no one could ever call them the flightless crows again.

After watching Yuri on Ice, I was in need of another adorable anime to enjoy, and I kept seeing Haikyu mentioned around online. Although I have enjoyed all the sports anime I've seen so far, I was somewhat reluctant because I have had a strong dislike of volleyball since middle school gym class. However, I was drawn to the characters and the storyline from the very first episode, and as the show progressed I realized that I was actually enjoying the sport itself and gaining a true appreciation for the game and all that goes into it. I did not expect that at all, and I am still surprised by how invested I was in the games, even when reading it in the manga without the exciting music and cheers and shouts from the players and the crowd.

I feel that the strength of this series is the characters and the friendships and relationships between them. We spend the most time with the Karasuno team and I genuinely cared about all of them. I loved watching them succeed after working hard at something, continue to strive to improve themselves, and how much love they had for one another and for their team as a whole. Hinata dreamed of having a place on a team and I don't think he could have found a better place to fit in, and I loved how supportive his upperclassmen were of him, even when he threw up on Tanaka during a fit of nerves. They all worked together so well and had such a special bond. It was heartwarming to watch Nishinoya refuse to return to the team because he didn't want to win without Asahi, or to see Sugawara fully support Kageyama even though he took his position as starting setter. All the characters were realistic and three dimensional, and it was encouraging to watch their trials and successes together. The series also made you really feel for the players on the other teams, whether they won or lost, and it was even moving to see their coach's friends using their vacation days to watch the boys' games.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the boys work together to build trust with their teammates and how they had to continue to learn and grow as the series progressed. In their own ways, Kageyama and Hinata both had to learn to rely on their teammates and one another, especially as Hinata was determined to have more control over their main offensive play, the 'freak quick', and Kageyama struggled to master the new serve. My favorite storyline was when Karasuno attended the training camp with Nekoma, Fukurodani, and other powerhouse schools. The friendly rivalries and the willingness of the teams to help each other improve were inspiring to see. Watching their progression over time made the payoffs so much more meaningful - whether it was Yamaguchi ultimately proving his worth as a pinch server, Asahi facing his anxieties and breaking through the iron wall, or Tsukishima experiencing a moment of genuine feeling in a game. I also loved the team's advisor, Takeda, and how he was relentless in trying to do right by his team, always working hard to line up practice games, and how he convinced Ukai to be their coach. Ukai never set out to follow in his grandfather's footsteps, but he was very suited to the role and pushed the team to heights they wouldn't have been able to reach on their own.

The anime and manga were both special in their own ways, although the anime followed the manga extremely closely. I saw the anime first and loved the voice work and the soundtrack and how it all pulled you into the story. I was on the edge of my seat watching some of the games and was really impressed by just how good this anime was. The manga is also very special and the side stories and character bios add even more depth to the characters and the series. I never would have expected that I could get so emotionally invested into a story about volleyball, but the absolutely lovable characters and inspiring story really made this an unforgettable series.

Favorites
Liz
Jen
Character
Ukai, Asahi, Nishinoya, Bokuto, Hinata, Kageyama
Hinata, Bokuto, Nishinoya, Kageyama
Story Arc
Nishinoya and Asahi's return to the team, training camp, revenge match against Aoba Josei
Tokyo Training Camp, Spring Tournament game against Aoba Josei
Relationship
Kageyama/Hinata, Asahi/Nishinoya, Nishinoya and Tanaka, Ukai/Takeda
Karasuno team, Hinata/Kageyama, Asahi/Nishinoya
Play
Nishinoya's 'rolling thunder', Hinata and Kageyama's modified quick, Asahi and Hinata's pipe
Hinata and Kageyama's modified quick, their synchronized attack